Bangladesh

Complicit in crimes: 21 Dhaka councilors patronise ‘teen gang’

Eleven people purchased four decimals of land in the Dhaka Udyan area of Mohammadpur in the capital seven years ago.

When an initiative was taken to construct a building in the land three months ago, members of local ‘gangchil gang’ demanded Tk 1 million as extortion money. Land owners paid Tk 500,000 and started the construction work.

Preferring not to be named, one of the land owners said the construction workers were beaten up as the payment was delayed. Buildings cannot be constructed without paying extortion money.

Local and police sources said gangchil gang leader Md Mosharraf Hossain alias Lombu Mosharraf is on the police’s list of criminals. There are 15 cases against him. Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Ward No. 33 councillor Asif Ahmed shelters him and his gang.

Speaking on 21 January, Asif Ahmed said, “I have no relationship with any criminal. I have joined politics for four years. These criminals remained in the locality from the past.”

Countering the claim, local people said after becoming councillor, Asif sheltered the criminals instead of taking action against them. Members of Gangchil gang join meetings and processions of Asif.

There are photos of Asif and Mosharraf sitting together. Sources said Mosharraf is trying to get a post in Jubo League, the youth wing of governing Bangladesh Awami League.

According to a investigation and the police report, there are at least 80 gangs like the ‘Gangchil gang’ operating in Dhaka. Most of those are known as ‘teen gangs’.

Although the gangs are known as teen gangs, most of the members of these gangs are above 18 years of age. They are involved in various crimes including snatching, extortion, drug trading, land grabbing, stalking, sexual harassment and illegal internet business.

Leaders of some of the gangs are involved in politics of the ruling party. Although some are not involved in politics, they get shelter from the politicians. A police report has also mentioned that 21 councillors in two Dhaka city corporations shelter the gangs.

The police made a report on ‘teen gang’ across the country in 2022. It said there are 173 teen gangs across the country. A total of 780 lawsuits have been filed against them on charges of various crimes. Some 900 have been made accused in the cases.

Social scientists say that the family and local elders would have a role to play in maintaining social order. They did not indulge the young teens in and misdeeds and misbehaviour. Now persons involved in politics have taken the place of the elders and use these young teens

According to the report, there are 66 teen gangs operating in the capital and 57 in Chattogram city. Outside of Dhaka city, there are 24 teen gangs. Each gang consists of 10-50 members.

According to an investigation and sources at the police department, the situation has currently deteriorated further than the time police prepared the report. At least 14 more teen gangs exist in Dhaka which have not been included in the police’s list.

The gangs not only commit crimes but also clash with each other over establishing supremacy. DMP sources said among the murders that took place in 2023, the teen gangs are involved in 25 incidents.

After a murder in Sreenagar of Munshiganj on 9 February, the issue of teen gangs came up for discussion again. The members of teen gangs murdered SSC candidate Nirob Hossain, 17, as he protested stalking the female students.

Earlier, nine pieces of the body of Milon Hossain, 27, were recovered from the Padma river in Kushtia on 3 February. In connection with the incident, expelled Bangladesh Chhatra League’s district unit vice president SK Sajib was arrested. The police said he is a leader of a teen gang.

In the past, top terrorists would lead different gangs in different districts including Dhaka. Now names of some leaders of the ruling party and its associate bodies are coming up.

The bottom line is, a large part of those who are supposed to control crime, are the ones creating crime. They are making money out of this

Associate professor at Dhaka University’s Institute of Social Welfare Research, Tawohidul Haque

Asked about the connection of criminal gangs with politics, DMP commissioner Habibur Rahman told , “Those who commit crimes in the name of teen gangs we call them terrorists. The terrorists have no specific party.”

“We are controlling the terrorists and will do so in the future,” he added.

People concerned said gangs did not grow in a day. These gangs have turned dreadful due to inaction of the police and shelter by the politicians. These gangs have become a threat for the people in large cities and in the capital.

Names of 21 councilors

According to the police report, Dhaka North City Corporation’s Ward No. 3 councillor Jahirul Islam, Ward No. 5 councillor Abdur Rouf, No. 6’s Taijul Islam Chowdhury, No. 7’s Tofazzal Hossain, No. 9’s Mojib Sarwar, No. 30’s Abdul Kashem, No. 31’s Shafiqul Islam and ward No. 34’s Sheikh Mohammad Hossain provide shelter to teen gang.

The police report also included the names of Rafiqul Islam alias Babla, councillor of ward-15, Sheikh Mohammad Alamgir of ward-31, Awal Hossain of ward-33, Ahmed Imtiaz Monafi of ward-38, Shahid Ullah of ward-46, Abul Kalam Anu of ward-48, Masum Molla of ward-50, Jummon Miya of ward-61, Moshtaq Ahmed of ward-62, Ibrahim of ward-67, Mahmudul Hasan alias Polin of ward-68, Salah Uddin AHmed of ward-69 and Atiqur Rahman of ward-70 under the Dhaka South City Corporation as the patrons.

spoke to 10 councillors mentioned in the police report. Five of them said there are no teen gangs in their area, while the remaining ones denied allegations of abetment.

Abdur Rauf, councillor of ward-5, told Prothom Alo on 9 February, “I have been a councillor in the area for 20 years. I do not know who put my name in the list of accomplices of criminals.”

However, some of the locals said the councillors are now the most influential people and it is quite impossible to run any gang without their indulgence.

On the condition of anonymity, a responsible leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s Mohammadpur thana unit said some councillors, and BCL and Jubo League leaders shelter criminal gangs to maintain their control and supremacy over the particular areas. Now, it takes a lot of money to become a councillor in Dhaka. Some councillors are even involved in extortion, business control, tender control, and drug trade.

More ‘gangs’ in Mirpur

Among the eight DMP divisions, there are more gangs in the areas inhabited by people of the lower income groups. One such area is Mirpur. There are 16 gangs active in the seven thana areas of DMP’s Mirpur division.

The largest gang belongs to Swechchhasebok League national committee member Nabil Khan. According to the police, the members of this gang are involved in all sorts of crime. Members of Nabil Khan’s gang, as well as rival gang Islam Bahini members, collect “toll” from the shops, factories, rickshaw garages and transport in the area stretching from Mirpur Mazar Road to the Gabtali bus terminal. In the turf battle to gain monopoly over this extortion racket, one of Nabil’s followers, Shah Alam, was severely beaten up last October. He later died.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Nabil said, many people who commit crimes claim that they are his men. He also claimed that he was not involved in any form of crime.

There are 16 gangs active in the seven thana areas of DMP’s Mirpur division. The largest gang belongs to Swechchhasebok League national committee member Nabil Khan

However, the cable TV operators, internet connection providers, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) traders and the small traders along the footpaths in these areas of Mirpur say that it is difficult to carry on business without paying Nabil’s gang.

An internet connection provider, on condition of anonymity, told that they would have to pay “toll” to the top terrors before. Now they have to pay the Swechchhasebok League leader’s gang. If the “toll” is not paid, the gang is sent to ransack and damage their shop. On 8 January Nabil’s assistant Shafiqul Rahman (Atul)’s men carried out one such attack on Ayesha Super Market in the Mirpur Mazar Road area.

There are around 13 gangs in Mirpur, other than Nabil’s one. These are the Bhashkar Bahini, Rinku Bahini, Ashik Bahini, Alu Babu Bahini, DJ Roman Bahini, Max Polu Bahini, Rubel Bahini, Anik Bahini, Parvez Bahini, Milon Bahini, Battu Bahini, Babla Bahini, Sharif alias Dasa Bahini.

This correspondent visited Kalshi in Pallabi on 20 January to learn more about these gangs. That evening, members of the Ashik Bahini attacked Max Polu and beat him up severely. Polu later told Prothom Alo, “I used to be involved in all sorts of crime before, but I have changed and now work in a motorcycle repair shop. I have no idea why they attacked me.”

The local people differ. They say one side attacked the other in a skirmish over snatching a mobile phone.

Sayeed Iqbal Bhaskar is the head of the Bhashkar Bahini in Mirpur. He is involved in drug dealing, extortion and all sorts of crime. It is alleged that Sayeed carries out these criminal activities under the protection of his uncle Anwar Hossain, who is the senior vice president of Mirpur thana Awami League.

Efforts were made to contact Anwar Hossain over mobile phone regarding these allegations and an SMS was also sent to him. However, he did not respond. A police officer involved in investigating the case against Sayeed, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that whenever Sayeed commits any crime, he simply takes shelter in his uncle’s house.

A player of Bangladesh national cricket team owns an eatery, Chhakka Restaurant, on Love Road in Mirpur Model Thana area. An extension of the restaurant is made from a shipping container. On 4 March members of the Rinku Bahini stole the container and took it to Dhanmondi. A case was filed with the Mirpur police station in this regard. In anger, the Rinku gang attacked and damaged the restaurant in broad daylight.

Investigations reveal that there are several cases at the Mirpur Model police station against the head of Rinku Bahini, Ripon Mahmud alias Rinku.

Crime in broad daylight at Mohammadpur

There are at least 11 active gangs in Mohammadpur. Other than Gangchil, there is the Kabji Kata group, Biriyani Suman group, Shooter Anwar group, Akash group, Lau Thela, De Dhakka, Alex Sumon, Lal Bahini and Lara De criminal gangs.

Videos of the criminal activities of these gangs can be found on the internet. In a video released by RAB five months ago, members of the Kobji Kata Bahini are seen hacking a young man in broad daylight with a sharp implement.

Local residents say, members of various gangs often are seen fighting on the streets with knives and carrying out attacks, spreading panic in the area. A resident of Ring Road in Mohammadpur, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo, a group of youth often comes from Camp Bazar and get into altercations with some shopkeeper or the other. Then they start breaking and looting the shop.

One such gang is run by the Mohammadpur thana Chhatra League vice president Sajjad Rahman. They are involved in mugging, extortion and drug trade. Last December Sajjad Rahman was expelled from Chhatra League for activities against the organisation and for being involved in crime. Sajjad has gone into hiding.

There are around 40 shops selling construction good in and around the Mohammadpur Beribadh area. There are many saw mills there too.

Speaking to eight businesspersons there, it was learnt that they all have to pay from Tk 5,000 to Tk 10,000 per month as “toll”.

A construction goods trader, on condition of anonymity, that he was told to pay Tk 10,000 per month or else he would not be allowed to carry on his business.

17 gangs in Demra-Sutrapur

Police and local sources say, there are 17 gangs in the Demra and Sutrapur areas of DMP’s Wari division.

Kamrul Hasan alias Palash, 32, has formed a gang, Kamrul Bahini, with about 25 members in Jatrabari. Kamrul claims to be a Jubo League member. It is alleged that they are given protection by the councillor of South city ward no. 61, Jummon Miah. The gang is involved in drugs, theft, snatching and extortion.

It was not possible to contact Kamrul about these allegations. However, councillor Jummon Miah told Prothom Alo that he was involved in BNP politics and has to be on the run most of the time. But he does know Kamrul of Kamrul Bahini. Kamrul is involved with Jubo League.

Sources among the police and local residents said that the Liton Bahini, Mukttar Bahini, Nasir Bahini, Jewel Bahini, Prakash Bahini, Al Amin Bahini, Sayeed Bahini, Shanto Bahini, Bhagne Sumon Bahini and Arif Bahini are active in Demra.

The Jewel gang is a fearful name in the Bibir Bagicha area of Old Dhaka. The councillor of South city ward 38, Ahmed Imtiaz Mannafi, is accused of aiding and abetting this group and three others. He is the son of Dhaka city south Awami League president Abu Ahamad Mannafi. When asked about these allegations on 9 February, Imtiaz Mannafi said he was in hospital. When attempts were made to contact him later, he did not reply to any phone call.

‘Those in control, create the crime’

Speaking to social scientists, members of the teen gangs and the police, it was learnt that the fights and clashes first emerge over seniority (senior-junior) among the teens and they form groups. From there the gangs are formed. The ‘big brothers’ involved in politics in the localities give them shelter and protection.

Social scientists say that the family and local elders would have a role to play in maintaining social order. They did not indulge the young teens in and misdeeds and misbehaviour. Now persons involved in politics have taken the place of the elders and use these young teens.

Associate professor at Dhaka University’s Institute of Social Welfare Research, Tawohidul Haque, told Prothom Alo that teen crime and gang culture had taken on alarming proportions in the capital and other large and commercial cities of the country. Certain elements among the politicians and law enforcement acted as their patrons.

He further said the bottom line is, a large part of those who are supposed to control crime, are the ones creating crime. They are making money out of this.

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